Need a gardener? So does your garden

Need a gardener?

My recent blog “Find a gardener – things you should consider” got me thinking – that you really need to think about the various factors I listed in terms of either “your needs” or “your garden’s needs”.

To illustrate the point I have taken the factors and split them into two lists: “your needs” and “your garden’s needs”

Need a gardener – “your needs” list

  • Advice
  • Communication
  • Company
  • Cost
  • Image
  • Insurance
  • Licences
  • Membership of trade body
  • Rapport
  • Services

Need a gardener – “your garden’s needs” list

  • Equipment
  • Knowledge
  • Skills

I understand that someone could argue the case that some items in each list could appear in the other list but have gone with my gut feeling as to which list each one sits with better. I do acknowledge that a couple of factors are truly shared and couldn’t be pigeonholed in one list and so a third short list was born:

Need a gardener – factors shared by “your needs” and “your garden’s needs” list

  • Care taken
  • Reliability
  • Work (quality, speed, safety and who)
  • Your needs (scope)

As per my last blog these lists are simply ordered alphabetically

Need a gardener – why think about these perspectives

In short, no two gardens are the same and no two customers are the same. Time doesn’t stand still: gardens and their owners change over time – and even if you don’t move house then your needs could vary over time. So it’s important to review these lists each time you need to look for a new gardener, or if you know someone who’s looking for a gardener then email them a copy of this blog.

Need a gardener – “your needs”

A gardener can only provide advice to you not your garden, and together you must decide the course of action. Likewise a gardener can only communicate with you, yes I may talk to the plants when working in a garden, but you really need to have good regular communication between you and your gardener. Also you and your gardener really need to get on well with each other.

You need to decide what type of company you want working for you and the value of the services they provide for what you pay. Same goes for image, is it important to you that they look smart/professional or are you more concerned about their work than what they look like. Also is it important to you whether they belong to a trade body, like The Gardeners Guild, or not – you may want to look at the website for the trade body and see what information they have for consumers.

You wouldn’t you let someone work on your house if they didn’t carry insurance – the same should apply to anyone working in your garden. Likewise licences, if the gardener isn’t trained or has the correct licence for the work they are doing – then their insurance may well be void. Always check and ask to see copies of their insurance certificates and licences.

You ultimately decide what work there is to do in the garden and how you’ll divide this up between yourself and others. Are you looking for a company that can do a bit of everything or will you use someone different for each different job, e.g. jet washing the patio will you do it, expect your gardener to do it or bring in a property maintenance company?

Need a gardener – “your garden’s needs”

Whilst no two gardens are the same – most gardens contain elements and plants that a good gardener should be familiar with, recognise and know how to look after and maintain. They should also be able to recognise pest, diseases and the difference between a plant and a weed. Knowledge is no good in itself – the gardener needs to be able to apply this knowledge by having the skills to look after your garden. Both go hand in glove – they need the knowledge to understand what they are dealing with, in terms of the garden, depending on when they visit, the weather and season, and then demonstrate their skills in the work that they do: for example when is it the right time to prune a honeysuckle?

Having the right tools for the job is not only important for being able to do the job but also ensures the work is done swiftly whilst having the correct and maintained tools will minimise any damage to the plant or your garden.

Need a gardener – shared by “your needs” and “your garden’s needs”

Gardens don’t stand still, especially true in the main growing season when to keep you garden looking good: it needs regular attention of a gardener turning up at least weekly or fortnightly. You also need to plan your diary and you shouldn’t be let down by a gardener who doesn’t turn up when you expect them, even worse if they haven’t called to say they need to change their visit which sometimes is inevitable, given the British weather.

Often a gardener is really only providing additional help in your garden – as there may be gardening work that you either enjoy doing or that need doing between visits e.g. watering. The scope of work should be based on the garden you have, it’s size, planting etc, the work that you’ll do between visits, any work excluded (as may be done by someone else) leaving that which you want the gardener to pick up.

Neither you nor your garden want a bull in a china shop – so the gardener must take care in the way that they work, so any risk of damage is minimised.

The gardeners work should speak for itself – does your garden look much better after each visit? It should, if you don’t see any difference after several visits then I’d be concerned. Whilst I’m not advocating that you watch you’re gardener working all the time, by the way I’m happy to have a quick chat with my customers whilst I work in their garden, you should generally see if the gardener looks like they understand their trade, and how they approach the work, how they organise it and their tools. You should be worried if you see any unsafe practices taking place – often indicative of incorrect training or having the right tools for the job.

Believe me, it takes more than one visit to become familiar with a garden, its layout, the plants and how to organise the work done each visit. I personally work for a limited number of customers and only I personally look after their garden, every visit. However, are you concerned if a larger company sends someone different each visit or is the work relatively straightforward and as long as it’s done to an acceptable standard then you’re more than happy?

Need a gardener – balancing needs

Ultimately you’ll have to decide if both “your needs” and “your garden’s needs” match and if they don’t then you need to make a decision (where there are differences) whether you’ll look for a gardener based on one need more than the other, but by thinking through these lists in terms of “your needs” and “your garden’s needs” then at least your decision should be well thought out, and by doing so you should be in a better position to you find a suitable gardener.

Again, happy to hear your thoughts. Please share this blog and contact me if you have any comments or questions.